This is the first in a seven-part series offering expertise and guidance about how to protect your loved ones as they age. Upcoming blog articles will focus on the various topics introduced in this first article. As always, contact Bratton Scott with any questions about these or other topics relating to elder law, life care planning and estate law.
While you are busy caring for your children, holding down a job and nurturing other relationships, it’s not unusual to learn that your own parents are facing some common challenges associated with growing older that require some additional caregiving by you. You help as much as you can, especially if they are no longer driving or battling a chronic health condition. However, you know the day will come where their needs may exceed your caregiving capabilities.
It’s time for “the talk.”
There are many issues to discuss with your aging parents: finances, healthcare, housing, and even extremely sensitive end-of-life topics. It’s completely understandable if you are feeling overwhelmed by the thought of broaching these subjects, they are very personal and can cause uncomfortable emotional reactions.
We can help. At Bratton Scott, our attorneys and life care planners offer a compassionate, informed approach to starting these discussions. We will provide knowledgeable advice and guidance so that confusion turns into clarity. If you choose to work with a certified life care planner, you can be guided through the process.
Anne Markel-Crozier is the director of Care Coordination at Bratton Scott Life Care Planning. When it comes to issues of planning for a loved one’s future as they age, no one is more compassionate than Ms. Markel-Crozier. Alongside our Elder Care Attorney, she will meet with you, get an understanding of your family’s situation and will then coordinate services that are needed now and as time moves on. She will also work closely with our experienced elder law attorneys to make sure your loved one’s estate plan – wills, trusts, asset protection plans, Medicaid planning and Veterans Aid and Assistance– is managed appropriately, as well.
Where to Start?
While it’s not always easy to start talking about aging and most certainly end-of-life concerns, it’s an important – and critically necessary – conversation that you need to have. The sooner you approach your aging parents to discuss the following issues, the faster you can all rest assured that you have a plan in place to protect assets and ensure quality of living for all.
The truth is that most people don’t think about any of these issues until there is a crisis. Perhaps the doctor diagnosed a serious illness, or mom took a bad fall or simple forgetfulness now seems like something far more concerning like a memory-related condition. We invite you to act, not react, to put a plan in place that will ensure safety for your loved one and peace of mind for all.
- Estate planning. Fully updated and executed wills are important. Everyone wants to make sure that their savings and assets are passed to their chosen heirs. Without a sound, legal will, an estate can get tied up in the red tape of probate. Is there a need for a trust or a guardianship? These are important documents that will protect both your loved ones and their assets. At Bratton Scott, our estate planning attorneys have significant experience drafting wills and other estate planning documents for individuals. You can help by gathering the paperwork our professionals will need to draft these documents. For example, it’s a good idea to help your aging loved one fully list all of their assets and liabilities so they can bring this information with them to their appointment. Ask for our free comprehensive checklist to help you prepare.
- Current medical treatments, doctors, and prescriptions. It’s important to write down the names of your parents’ various treating physicians and all of their current medications and dosages. Always try and keep an updated list of this information with you. Also, try to meet with each parent’s primary care physician once your parents have fully updated their Advance Directives and other estate planning medical documents. Be sure to give copies of these medical care documents to their doctors.
- What shape are their finances in at present? People can be very sensitive about discussing this topic — they often fear that if they don’t have much money, you’ll view them as failures. If they, or their family grew up during the depression, they may be hesitant to divulge information. Explain that you simply want to help them manage their funds as their basic health and living conditions change in the coming years.
- What preferences do your parents have in terms of living in their home, moving into assisted living – or even nursing home facilities — one day? You can help them greatly by being realistic about what they can actually afford, based upon what they’ve shared about their finances. You can also learn more about how to protect their assets before the need arises for long-term skilled nursing. A life care planner can review the options and help your family determine what’s best based on healthcare needs, mobility, etc.
- Medicaid Planning: Planning for the day when your loved one may need to live in a skilled nursing facility, such as a nursing home or assisted living center, is a critical piece of the puzzle. How will your family be able to afford the care if and when the time comes? Our experienced attorneys can advise you about asset spend down procedures and other information related to obtaining public benefits such as Medicaid.
- Does your loved one qualify for Veterans Aid and Assistance? Talk to our knowledgeable elder law and estate planning attorneys if your family member served in the Armed Forces. There may be additional funding they are entitled to and we can explain the process to the family.
- Naming one or more legal agents. As part of the estate planning process, it’s important to put in place Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney (also called Healthcare Proxy) and other documents to make sure future decisions will be made with your parents’ best interests in mind – when they are unable to make those decisions for themselves.
While this next point isn’t necessarily on the “must do” list, it can be a good way to help ease your parents’ fears about aging. Find out what each parent’s greatest fears are about growing older. You won’t really know until you ask. Perhaps one parent is afraid of going into a nursing home while the other is fearful of becoming immobile or a burden. Once you know what they are thinking you can be especially compassionate about these particulars and look out for them as time marches on.
Rest assured that the compassionate and knowledgeable elder law attorneys and life care planners at Bratton Scott are committed to helping you and your loved ones plan for the future so all needs and concerns are addressed and accounted for. As a team of caring professionals, we’re always ready to do everything we can to respond to your needs as quickly as possible.
Coming soon: please check back to read the next blog post in this series about the importance of a beginning the estate planning process with your elderly loved one.